Matt Michels has asked to scale back his lieutenant governor duties to half-time for health reasons. No, he didn't catch mad cow disease from his pink-slime sandwich in South Sioux City. Michels tells Josh Verges he messed his back up during the Missouri River flood last year:

Michels said he developed muscular pain in his back last year while leading the state's efforts to combat flooding on the Missouri River.

"Everybody was running around, not getting much sleep," he said. "I haven't addressed it correctly, and it's aggravated by driving."

Although Michels lives with his wife in Yankton, he has been driving to and from Pierre for work each week throughout the year. Going forward, he'll work mostly from Yankton, communicating with the governor and staff by email.

He still plans to be in Pierre at least one week each month and he will continue to run the Senate when the Legislature is in session [Josh Verges, "Matt Michels Reduces Role as Lieutenant Governor," that Sioux Falls paper, 2012.04.18].

Reading the various signs and whispers about the South Dakota political cosmos, I've hypothesized the following order of succession ordained by the Daugaard ascension of 2010:

  1. Dennis Daugaard 2011-2018
  2. Matt Michels 2019-2026
  3. Dusty Johnson 2027-2034 (after returning from four terms in Congress)
  4. Tony Venhuizen 2035-2063 (declares self Governor for Life in 2041; deposed in coup led by underground network of SDSU alums and very large extended family from McCook County)

Shy of Dems finding the magic candidate who can crack the 40% ceiling, I might regard a 2019 Michels Administration with something less than dread, given his willingness to defend the idea that the government is us.

Now Michels appears to be stepping out of that order. Dusty Johnson is moving up, taking on Michels's duties running the Bureau of Personnel and the state employee health plan. How many other young eager Republicans are imagining their point of entry moving eight years sooner on that hierarchy? Jon Hansen 2034?

I do not begrudge Lt. Gov. Michels his choice. I hope spending more time back on home ground and less time in the car does his back some good. But I do wonder: does Michels's return to Yankton precurse a full return to the private sector in 2014?